Traditional skills make for self-sufficient sailors


Sailors from near and far gathered at the Old Armory Building on Oct. 20-21 for a weekend of workshops and classes on traditional sail-making and rigging. Carol Hasse of Hasse & Co. Port Townsend Sails, Brion Toss of Brion Toss Yacht Riggers and Emiliano Marino of the Artful Sailor hosted the workshops.

Between the three of them, Hasse, Toss and Marino have years of experience with traditional skills, and they aim to help new sailors become self-sufficient when they’re out on the water. 

“There is such a magic in it,” Hasse said as she showed her students a slideshow of sail-making photos on a vintage slide projector. “There aren’t that many sail lofts that make sails by hand anymore. It’s important to keep these skills alive.”

While Hasse and Toss have hosted many sail-making and rigging seminars before, it was the first time that the Artful Sailor held one at the same time, expanding students' learning options. 

Up in the sail loft, Hasse and her fellow sail-making teachers, Lacey Capel and Alison HickenWood, taught repair and sewing by hand and with sewing machines on synthetic sailcloth. Many of their students are boat owners who are hoping to sail into the open ocean and need to know how to fix a sail in the case of an emergency. 

Downstairs at the Artful Sailor, Marino and Pami-Sue Alvarado taught hand-sewing skills with natural materials, using canvas, twine and beeswax. Their students learned a variety of stitches and techniques while they made sailors’ tool belts. 

Meanwhile, Toss helped his students learn rigging skills and self-sufficiency through problem-solving for when something breaks or wears down on a sailboat.

“There are a lot of components in your rig, but they’re all accessible to you,” Toss said. “Get in the habit of saying, ‘Here’s a solution, but if I can’t do that, what else can I do?’ Then you have the opportunity to leap into a different solution all together.” 

While it was important to learn how to make repairs in a pinch, the instructors also instilled the importance of artistry in sailing.

“You can put your imagination and your skill into what you’re doing,” said Jim Cunnington, one of the students who was learning traditional hand sewing at the Artful Sailor. “It becomes part of you.” 


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